Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Looking back, looking forward

Time's Echo ... all 130,000 words of it

It's that time of year.  It's too close to Christmas to concentrate on work so I've been looking back on 2011 instead, and letting out a long 'phew' at deadlines made that seemed almost impossible at the beginning of the year.  

But somehow or another, it all got done, with the exception of a second romance.  I've done a rough draft, but decided not to beat myself up about not finishing it completely.  It's my first job of 2012, and in the meantime, I'm thinking positive and giving myself a pat on the back for the things I did do this year.  

They include writing We'll Always Have Paris and a  ‘time slip’ now called Time’s Echo; researching and writing  a history of the Merchant Adventurers of York, and editing an illustrated book on the same; writing   a short piece in the style of a Regency romance, based on a portrait, for an exhibition called (Now That Would Be) Telling which opens in London in January; and teaching: a ten-week evening course, a one day Crash Course in Writing Romance, and a week-long course on writing popular fiction in Tuscany.  

Oh, and I’ve explored the idea of whether reunion romances can work in real life as well as in fiction (still a work in progress!) and had a lovely time walking walking the Lycian Way in May, and spending long weekends away in Scotland, London, Yorkshire, Wiltshire, Cambridge, Brighton and Tuscany.  Yep, all in all, it's been a great year!

Now I’m looking forward to 2012.  We’ll Always Have Paris is out in the UK in January and I hope will be released in North America too, although I’m having trouble finding out exactly when!  Time’s Echo will be published on 30 August, so that will be very exciting.  

Less excitingly  (for me, anyway) I’m going to have to get to grips with a new website and tackle more social media stuff too.  Apparently I have to learn to Twitter … aaarrrgghh … while still in a terrible muddle on Facebook, where I’ve been trying without success to switch from a personal profile to a page.  I’ll have to sort that out next year!   I’ll be writing another ‘time slip’ and a couple of romances, and teaching another one day course on Writing Romance in June. 

So a much less frenzied year, I hope, but we never know what’s round the corner, so I’m making the most of the good times now.  In that spirit, I’m shutting down my computer tomorrow, and won’t be switching it on again until I get back from Christmas and New Year celebrations in Scotland and Wiltshire.  

A HUGE thank you to everyone who’s read and commented on this blog over the year, and made me feel as if I’m not wittering on alone.  I wish you all a very, very happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous 2012, full of wonderful books  to be written and read. 

Jessica x

Friday, 16 December 2011

Christmas contest winners!

I promised a list of winners today, so here, without further ado, as they say, they are:

Tora Williams
Louise Reynolds

Do email me your addresses at and I will put a copy of WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS in the post to you as soon as I can.

I’ve just had editorial comments on the time slip I spent the summer writing, and they are minimal, so that’s made my Christmas, if not my entire year!  I’ve been in limbo for the last couple of weeks while I waited to hear back, but it’s been quite nice to drift and I’ve kept myself amused buying Christmas presents, transcribing sixteenth-century court records (don’t ask!) and building myself a Christmas tree. 

I’d love to be able to say this was my idea, but I pinched it off Facebook, where someone posted a photo of a beautiful life-size tree made entirely of books.  I have to say it was much better than mine, but mine was built from spare copies of my books in various obscure languages and I had a lovely time doing it.  Five minutes after I draped round the lights and switched them on, a passer-by dropped a home-made cardboard decoration through my door.  It read: That’s tree-mendous.

Talking of Facebook, I’m going to be deleting my profile on Sunday.  I know this will mean losing all my friends at one fell swoop, but I now have an author page, and since I’ll be setting up one for the time slip next year, I’ve decided to rationalise.  So if you’d like to keep in touch on Facebook, you can find me at:
I hope you’ll come and ‘see’ me there!  

Sunday, 11 December 2011

We'll Always Have Paris: Christmas contest!

Clara is a production assistant for a TV film-making company and she’s got a new project.  Romance: Fact or Fiction is make-or-break for Clara’s future, and her first challenge is to get Simon Valentine, financial guru turned prime-time pin-up, to front the programme.  But Simon’s got no time for romance, real or fictional, and it’s going to take all Clara’s powers of persuasion, not to mention a broken wrist, to get him on board.

I was going to explain the premise of the programme, but why don’t I let Clara tell you for herself?

Apart from directions to the flat she shared in a shabby street in south-west London, the journey passed in silence.  Clara folded her lips together and heroically refrained from reminding Simon of his mother’s promise, but she knew that he was thinking about it.  Whenever she peeped a glance at him from under lashes, she could see a muscle jerking in his jaw.
Miraculously, Simon managed to find parking space only a little way down the street from Clara’s flat.  He switched off the engine, but neither of them moved. 
Clara and Simon film a segment of the programme on the Pont Neuf in Paris
The silence lengthened.  His jaw was still working, Clara noted.  It would be a mistake to say anything, but he could do with just a tiny push. 
Lifting her arm in its sling, she winced.  Not too much.  Just enough to suggest great pain, bravely borne, but not so bravely that he didn’t notice. It was a delicate balance.
‘Oh, all right!’ Simon ground out as if she had been nagging him for the entire journey.
Clara opened her eyes at him, all innocence.  ‘What?’
‘I’ll do your bloody programme, all right?’ he snarled.  ‘There’s no need to keep going on about it!’
‘I didn’t say a word,’ protested Clara, careful to conceal her jubilance.
‘You didn’t need to. I know perfectly well you registered what my mother said.  You must promise to let us know if there’s ever anything we can do for you,’ he mimicked Frances savagely.  ‘One of these days I’m going to wring her neck!’
‘It won’t be that bad, honestly.’  Now that he was on the point of agreeing, Clara perversely began to feel a little sorry for him.  ‘We’re not asking you to take part in any stunts or cheap tricks.  Ted is a brilliant director.  MediaOchre has won several awards for documentaries we’ve made, and we’re expecting this one to be just as successful.’‘Oh, don’t do that!  She’s so lovely.’
Far from agreeing, Simon blew out a breath and glowered through the windscreen.   ‘You’d better tell me what she’s let me in for,’ he said heavily.
Clara and Simon sit on a beach just like this
She could hardly believe she was getting to do the speech she had practised so carefully at last.  This was worth a broken wrist! 
Romance: Fact or Fiction? will be a serious examination of romance,’ she assured him.  ‘We’re going to look at what it is and how it works and why it’s so popular around the world, but we want to get beyond the clichés.’
‘Right.’  Simon’s voice dripped disbelief. 
‘Your presence will give the programme real gravitas,’ Clara went on, ignoring his scepticism.  ‘Stella Holt is incredibly popular at the moment, so she’ll represent the ‘romantic’ idea while you would be in the ‘anti romance’ camp, if you like. I know Stella is very keen to work with you on this,’ she added.  ‘We think the contrast between the two of you will make for intriguing television.’
‘Intriguing television … ye gods.’  Simon rubbed a hand over his face.  ‘I can’t believe I’m even listening to this!’
Clearly she wasn’t converting him to the idea.  Clara ploughed on.  ‘The plan is to shoot the film in three classic “romantic” locations. One will be Paris, obviously.’
‘I thought you were going to avoid clichés?’
Benn Eighe, Dec1994, or the view Clara wakes up to!
‘We’re testing the clichés,’  she said firmly.  ‘After Paris, we’ll film on a tropical island, and for the last segment, Ted wants me to find somewhere wild and stormy – a cottage in the Highlands, for instance.’  She looked at him hopefully.  ‘What do you think?’
‘I think it’s the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard,’ said Simon, not mincing his words.  ‘What’s it supposed to prove?’
‘Well, for a start, we’ll consider whether those places are romantic or not – will you feel more romantic when you’re there, and do they make you behave differently?’
‘I can tell you now that I won’t,’ he said, his mouth set in an implacable line  ‘I don’t do romance.’
‘Then that’s what you’ll say.’  Clara kept her voice calm.  It was like dealing with a skittish horse.  Having got this close, she didn’t want to spook him now, before she’d slipped that bridle over his head and got him to finally agree.  She was almost there.  Already her fingers were itching to pull out her phone and call Ted with the news.
Simon sighed again, rubbed his hand over his face again.  Reluctance incarnate.
‘So it would just be those three trips?’
‘Three short trips, which we would accommodate those to your schedule, of course. For you it’ll mean free trips to Paris, the Indian Ocean and Scotland,’ Clara added, still in economist whisperer mode.  ‘That can’t be bad, can it?’
Oops, wrong thing to say.   ‘If there’s one thing  people need to understand about the economy, it’s that there’s no such thing as “free”,’ said Simon quellingly.  ‘Everything has to be paid for somewhere along the line.’
‘I can assure you we wouldn’t be asking you to pay anything.’
‘I’d be paying with my professional reputation.  And my time.’
Personally, Clara would have thought the chance to go to the tropical island of St Bonaventure alone was worth the trade, but she bit her lip on the comment.
‘We’d make all the arrangements,’ she said, trying another tack.  ‘You wouldn’t have to do anything but turn up and do your piece to the camera.’
 ‘And if I agree, will you shut up and leave me alone?’
‘No more phone calls, no more emails, no more throwing yourself at muggers?’
‘Well, I’d need to get in touch with you about travel arrangements, but other than that, you won’t even know I exist,’ promised Clara.  **

I had great fun writing this story. Simon is one of my favourite heroes, quiet, restrained, and driven to distraction by Clara with her zest for life and her ability to sing all the words to The Sound of Music.

And of course, I got to write about some of my favourite places in the world.  I've just spent a happy afternoon going through my photo albums (cue much wistful sighing) in search of some pictures of Paris, tropical islands and the Highlands in winter, but I realised that there were so many other wonderfully romantic places I could have used as settings for Clara's programme instead.

The Australian outback is high on my list of romantic places, and what about listening to the rain on a tropical verandah, or watching the feluccas on the Nile as the sun sets?  And don’t even get me started on Africa or deserts or the combination of hills and sea anywhere in the world …

The Nile at Luxor
We’ll Always Have Paris is out in the UK in January (I’m still waiting to find out when it’s released in North America).  I’ve got three free copies to give away.  If you’d like to win one of them, leave a comment below letting me know the place you think is most romantic, and I’ll put you in a draw for Friday 16th December.  Don’t forget to check back then to see if you’re a winner!

 **From the book: We’ll Always Have Paris
By: Jessica Hart
Imprint and series Harlequin® Romance™
Copyright © 2012
By: Jessica Hart

® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
For more romance information surf to:

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Websites, pet hates and a chance to win my newest book

Hooray … after a number of weeks stuck with my wheels spinning uselessly, I am finally back on track and slowly (slowly being the operative word) gathering momentum again.

Who knows what made the difference?  It could have been setting myself such tiny, achievable targets that I could hardly fail to make them every day, or it might have been the good ticking off I had from my best friend, who told me in no uncertain terms that I had to ‘get on with it’.  Or maybe I was just bored and ready to start thinking again.  Whatever the reason, I’m now back to juggling various projects and feeling much more myself.

One of the projects I’m ready to get to grips with is a new website for my “time slips”. Time’s Echo is to be published next October, and as that will be published under my real name, I’ll need a completely new identity.  I’ve been looking around at website designers and am trying to draw up a detailed specification of exactly what I want. 

Do you have any pet hates when it comes to websites?  What will make you stay and look around a site, rather than click away?  If you’ve got any thoughts on what makes for an appealing website, do let me know, and as a thank you, I’ll put anyone who’s commented below into a draw for a copy of my next book, We’ll Always Have Paris.

Still on the internet, I’ve been trying to set up an author page on Facebook.  Can’t for the life of me work out how to set up a ‘Like’ box, so have given up on that, but if you’re on Facebook and would care to pop over and ‘like’ me anyway, that would be fab.  You can find me here until I can find someone to sort out an icon for me!

Oh, and don't forget there's a chance to win a book and get some great recipe ideas every day at the moment at Harlequin Romance Authors' website.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Party time!

Not sure how we got to December when a minute ago it was January, but suddenly it’s almost Christmas.  Why not kick off the festive season by visiting Harlequin Romance authors at our newly re-launched website where we have Christmas recipes and books galore to give away.

I hate the word ‘supportive’ – always feel as if I should say it in a dreary voice with my mouth turned down – but it really is the best one to describe my fellow Harlequin Romance authors.  We are split into Cherish and RIVA authors in the UK, but we share an email loop, and a kinder and more generous group of women it would be hard to find. 

We’ve had a website for some time, but we felt it needed refreshing, and largely thanks to the indefatigable Donna Alward, we are now up and running.  We’ve been getting into the mood for Christmas by smacking our lips over each other’s recipes, and are all ready to parcel up our books to send off to winning readers.  

All you need to do is to visit the Harlequin Romance Authors' website and comment, and you’ll go into the draw for the author featured that day.   Lots of your favourite HR authors are there, so it’s a great chance to win some wonderful books to read over the holiday season. 

I’ll be there some time soon, too, with my recipe for Spiced Pears, which I make every Christmas to serve with gammon and a potato gratin.  It’s great if you have lots of people round and want to get everything done in advance, and the pears add a festive touch. 

When it's my turn, I’ll be offering a copy of Under The Boss’s Mistletoe, largely because it’s got a Christmassy cover (one of the few covers I’ve actually liked!) but because I’m in the mood for giving, I’ll also send a copy of We’ll Always Have Paris to whoever wins that day for a sneak preview.  

I’m not sure when I’ll be up, but there are recipes and books up for grabs every day, so pop over and see who’s around, and sooner or later you’ll find me there …